|Image Credit: Yamabiko|
There have been 100s of books about the World Wars. Birdy here has a fascination with them. I don't have a keen interest in books set in that period, but I have always looked forward to reading about this tumultuous and insane period in mankind's history. Interweaving a number of characters from varied backgrounds, Follett has created an engrossing account. We follow five families, including the lives of Billy, lowly coal miner in Wales, his sister Emily, the Earl Fitzherbert, his sister Maud and the Earls' friends, including Walter. How the war intervenes and changes their life forever forms the basis of Fall of Giants.
There has been criticism on the Net about the historical inaccuracies in this book. Fair to say that Follett's is a work of fiction. So perhaps, we can cut the writer a bit of slack there. His characters are also largely typecast - we all know the Earl is going to act like an idiot, and that fantastic coincidences are always around the corner to ensure that the characters meet. Somehow. Even across German and Allied trenches. There is no character development - once formed, they all remain much the same, acting in pretty much the same fashion, and that's where the novel becomes less of a novel, and more of a narrative. As a story, Follett is a very readable writer. I found it easy to turn the pages (you won't believe how difficult a task that is considering the books I am reading now!), and the pace of action was fairly rapid, except for long periods in the second half of the novel when Follett ventures deep into politics and trench warfare without really seeming to show much of a grasp for either.
Some themes never become fleshed out completely - the War, politics, feminism, rich/poor divide, class conflicts, labor conflicts, forbidden love - when you tackle so much, it is obvious that some become orphaned. Is that a failing of the novel? Not so. It is distracting when Follett flips from one to another, but given the scope of the book, you can excuse it. What marks my first grumble of the year is the ending. Once again, everything comes together too hastily, and too much of 'happily ever after' sappiness that mars it. I hope that is not considered a spoiler - forgive me if it is so.
Overall, Fall of Giants was a fast read. Gripping in parts, flagging many times, and predictable. Incidentally, it received quite a beating on Amazon by irate readers who, I think quite justifiably, denounced the $19.99 price tag for the Kindle ebook version. Which makes me thank the person who generously gifted this author-signed copy even more.
Verdict: Requires patience, and I am not sure if there is reward for your patience, but you can proudly tell folks at the next party that you finished a 900-page marathon!
Rating : 2.75/5